Brevity is the Soul of Wit

Heebie-Geebie offers some sage advice on story-telling and blogging:

First, cut way more details than you want to. Cut almost everything. Cut so much that you’re staying ahead of the person listening. Only fill in extra details if they’re still fascinated and you’re going back to flesh out the situation. Second, if your audience isn’t quite captivated, don’t hang on to the point. Blurt it out right at the beginning. If they’re still not captivated, give up. If they do become interested, then fill in the details.


Blogging is very similar. It’s not about the content of the post, but about not bogging down in boring details.

I was at a blogging seminar with Matt Yglesias a while back and he said the key was to have one idea — and only one idea — per post.  I violate that rule more often than I should.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. sam says:

    Old story:

    Guy’s on his first day in the yard in prison. Every now and then somebody will yell out a number, and all the inmates crack up. This goes on for a while, until somebody yells out a number, and nobody laughs. The new guy says to this oldtimer, “What’s going on? Somebody yells out a number, everyone laughs; this other guy yells out a number, nobody laughs.” “Well,” says the old guy, “most of us have been in here so long, we’ve heard all the jokes. So, to save time, we’ve given ’em all a number.” “Ok,” says the new guy, “but how come everybody laughs except when that guy yells out a number?” The oldtimer says, “Some people just can’t tell a joke.”

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    With a lot of bloggers it’s a matter of having one idea period.

  3. Wayne says:

    It gets down to what you are trying to achieve. Long winded post tend to lose readers of that post. However it is hard to explain a position without details. Throwing an insult or opinion can be done with brevity. Thorough thought cannot.

    My posts tend to be long. I would like to write longer ones but know I would lose even more readers if I did. However my desire is often to delve onto the thought process more than the conclusions or to simply express myself.

  4. Fortunately for Young Mr. Yglesias nobody said it had to be a good idea.

  5. gVOR08 says:

    In your naked Hawaiian guy post, I think you undershot the mark.